I hope this email finds you well.
For me the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a marker in the year that has been there all my working life – some 30 years on Chelsea continues to delight and inspire, with old acquaintances rekindled exactly 12 months on from the last time we set to toil in rain and sun to look to present our best stand and enjoy being part of the greatest flower show there is…

Competition to Win a Pair of Tickets to the Show!
Please see the bottom of this email for details on how to win a pair of Tuesday tickets to Chelsea Flower Show.

This year I have sought to promote, alongside our Heritage Handmade Garden Collections, the Fine Garden Antiques that have been our specialist stock in trade for 45 years now.

This virtual (Italian) Grand Tour features a selection of our Garden Antiques inventory on the stand (SR146) and starts with a brace of early 19th century (circa 1820) Carrara marble dogs, known variously as: The Molossian Hounds, The Jennings Dog, The Duncombe Dog and the Dog of Alcibiades, ours here being a copy of the original model now in the British Museum, itself being a copy of a lost Hellenistic 2nd Century BCE Greek Bronze.
Giambologna became well known throughout Europe in the 16th century with every collector wanting an example of his exceptional work. This large-scale bronze shows Mercury (his most popular model) in flight, moving in extreme contrapposto with each ankle winged (one is missing but will be replaced) and on his head a Petasos (hat) with yet more wings. A Caduceus (now missing and again to be replaced) is held in one arm with the other alluding to the higher power of Jupiter above, for whom, on wind blown from the god of the (gentle) west wind: Zephyr, he eternally carries forth messages – hence why he is the cap badge symbol for the Royal Signals.

Fortune is seen here echoing the pose of Mercury and has been recorded, although in a different model of the subject, by Giambologna as a companion piece.

The attributes of Fortune are varied; here we have the abundant cornucopia with coins and pearls flowing forth. The pearls seen again in the braiding of her hair, however, according to Horace, Fortune was a mistress of the sea, here alluded to with the billowing garment or (small) sail pointing to the wind’s (invariable) inconsistency. The sea is further alluded to around the base of the ship's wheel (of fortune), so described as “that which raises the fallen and abases the proud”. Not here, but sometimes the wheel is inscribed Regnabo, Regno, Regnavi, Sum sine Regno – I shall Reign, I Reign, I have Reigned, I am without Sovereignty…
With Kings and Queens in mind, HM King Charles will be visiting Chelsea for the first time I can remember, and I will have on the front of the stand a wonderful William & Mary lead cistern, dated 1691. With a triple entwined parterre design to the front and one to one side, this early cistern, in original condition, bears the initials I J E (these typically being the owner or the giver of a marriage gift) with other embellishments including putto riding dolphins, star fish, fish, fleur-de-lys, thistles, a depiction of Fame (within ovals), and a garlanded crown insignia.
Here not an antique, but not to be missed on this grandest of tours, is a verdigris bronze Dancing Faun, being a copy of the Roman original discovered at Pompeii on 26th October 1830. The original is now in the National Museum, Naples, from which this is a faithful and rather beautifully cast Italian-made copy.
Also at the show is an early 20th century Italian marble lion standing on a rocky outcrop. The lion, drilled for use as a fountain (through the open mouth), is carved from one solid block, with the body of the lion supported by a foliage (a technical support prop) as he stands four square to roar forth, or spout as required. (Interestingly two of the same model are available.)
Last but not least is an Italian Byzantine type carved Istrian stone cistern, circa 1910. Of circular form having carving throughout depicting mythical birds and beasts, framed within Solomonic columns with pointed arches and a foliate scroll decoration to the top band, and a Greek key pattern to the base. It is interesting to note that a similar cistern can be seen in the gardens of the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Venice – now the home of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection being a fitting place to rest up after one’s tour, the Danieli with a Negroni perhaps!
Win a Pair of Tickets to RHS Chelsea Flower Show for Tuesday 23rd May

We have a pair of tickets to give away to the person who can correctly guess the number (or closest to) of kilograms of gravel used on our stand this year (which we will recycle on our driveway at Taddington after the show...). If there is more than one correct entry(!) names will be pulled out of a hat.

Please send your answer by email before 5pm on Sunday 21st May. The winner will be notified by 12 noon on Monday 22nd May.
Good luck!

All best regards